Arts Council NPO Decisions

Like most people in the arts world, I’ve been glued to Twitter this morning following the #artsfunding stream.

Having been on the receiving end of the 2007 cuts at Script, and the resultant fall-out, it’s hard to see it happening again to people and companies I care about. The whole landscape is shifting, and while it’s good to see the successes, it’s also heartbreaking to see the losses.

In summary, 695 organisations have been successful in their bids. 206 have had their applications rejected and 110  groups have received grants for the first time. You can find the full breakdown on the Arts Council website.

In terms of new writing, there is a discernible shift towards the regional umbrella literature organisations:

Writing West Midlands: New NPO
Writing East Midlands: +35.5%
Writers’ Centre Norwich: +62.3%
New Writing North: +50.1%
New Writing South: -15.4%

Fantastic news for literature, but it seems that playwriting is falling out of favour. New Writing South have a sizeable theatre writing strand (having started out as Pier Playwrights), while core grants to both Theatre Writing Partnership and North West Playwrights have been cut completely from 2012.

The Writers’ Guild of Great Britain have just issued this statement responding to the NPO decisions, also tweeting that new theatre writing survives funding cuts. I disagree. While Guild President David Edgar states: “We’re pleased that the Arts Council has not chosen to cut new writing agencies”, it is evident that the axe has fallen on agencies which specifically focus on writing for performance. In addition, thriving new writing theatres such as Theatre Absolute and Foursight have also lost all funding.

Playwright Fin Kennedy gives a useful overview here of what this means for theatres across the UK

The grassroots development of new theatre writing in the West Midlands was cut four years ago with Script, and it now seems that the small producers of new writing are also bring chopped.  Which leads us back to The Rep. It does good work, but can’t be expected to bear the commissioning brunt of the whole region. Wasn’t this review aimed at improving infrastructure, rather than simply falling back to rely on the big guns?  To paraphrase Alex Kelly from Third Angel, a bit pissed off actually.

The good news:

Writing West Midlands
Huge congratulations to Jonathan Davidson and Sara Beadle for their work on Birmingham Book Festival and Writing West Midlands, which will receive £180k in 2012/13. Hopefully this will support a flourishing and sustainable new writing sector in the region over the next four years. In light of other cuts nationally, I hope that its ambition will extend to offering substantial provision for regional theatre writers.

Really pleased to see that the funding for this rural touring company has been maintained. Important and exciting new work, which includes a residential writers’ week in May, and new commissions for 2012 from the recent “We Are Here” script call-out. Great news.

Talking Birds
We Love You City at The Belgrade last year was one of the best new plays I’ve seen in a long time. A recent installation celebrated the history of Coventry’s sorting office. Long may it continue.

24:7 Theatre Arts
Manchester’s annual new writing festival is regularly funded for the first time. A solid event in the calendar.

And, the bad news:

North West Playwrights
A highly successful development agency for new writing, which had planned to expand its remit to support writers and producers in the West Midlands and Yorkshire. Chris Bridgman, the Chief Exec, was recently awarded a Writers Guild Award for New Writing Encouragement. NWP had over 20 years of experience in mentoring and supporting writing for performance. A shocking decision.

Theatre Writing Partnership
Again, a thriving organisation which supported writers in the East Midlands. Supported by all the major regional theatre producers, TWP has an incredibly strong track record in nurturing playwrights. Also runs the annual Momentum Festival

Third Angel
Exciting and innovative company that I’ve raved about often enough. This has provoked the most reaction and anger on Twitter this morning – if there is a route to appeal, expect Third Angel to be first in line for a reprieve.

Theatre Absolute
New writing theatre based in Coventry, recently launched the first ever shop-front theatre in a disused chip-shop. Popular, successful, and also runs a community writing course to support regional playwrights

Foursight Theatre
Female-led devising theatre, based in Wolverhampton. No personal experience of company, but strong reputation for creating relevant and excellent work.

That’s just a tiny snapshot of the overall picture, but one which will directly affect the new writing ecology in the West Midlands and beyond. Commiserations also go to Birmingham companies The Other Way Works and fiction publisher Tindal Street Press. More news nationally can be found on the Guardian live blog throughout the day. Comprehensive listings of organisations in the West Midlands can be found here

Finally, Sam West made an inspiring speech at the March for the Alternative on Saturday 26th March 2011, outlining just why these things are important.